Situated on the Gulf of Kavala, in the Northern Aegean Sea, opposite the island of Thasos (see map below
), Kavala is the main seaport and capital of the East Macedonia and Thrace region of Greece.
If ever there was a place on the North Aegean where the words "strategic location" spring to mind it is here in Kavala. The ancient core of the city is a fortified rocky headland which rises dramatically above the coast.
This mini Gibraltar, which now forms the historical Panagia district, is flanked on both sides by bays which have acted as harbours for military, merchant and fishing vessels since antiquity.
From the Kastro (Castle, also known as the Frourio, Fortress) on top of the rock its defenders could watch over the sea as far as Mount Athos to the west, Thasos to the south and towards the Dardanelles to the east.
It also controlled the coastal road between Greece and Asia, along which Thracian, Persian, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish, Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian and German armies (to mention but a few) have successively trampled.
Known in ancient times as Neapolis (New City), the port was an important stopping point for ships sailing around the Aegean between Greece, the Black Sea, Asia Minor and beyond. From the middle of the second century BC it became a part of a Roman province and an important station along the Via Egnatia
trans-Balkan road between the Adriatic and Byzantium.
It was here that Brutus and Cassius, two of Julius Caesar's assassins, based their fleet before the Battle of Philippi against Mark Antony and Octavian in 42 BC which decided the fate of the Roman Republic and Empire. It was also here that Saint Paul first landed on the European mainland around 49 AD to spread Christianity through Greece.
The surrounding countryside produces a wide variety of agricultural riches, and the gold, silver and mineral mines around nearby Mount Pangaion (Παγγαίο όρος) also contributed to the city's wealth (see Big Money
at the Cheshire Cat Blog).
The wider bay to the west of the Panagia headland is the main harbour around which the centre of modern Kavala grew from the mid 19th century as the city became an important and wealthy centre for the processing and export of locally grown tobacco.
During the 20th century the city has spread along the coast and inland up the steep wooded hillside. These days the former commercial port is used for passenger ferries to the nearby islands of Thasos, Limnos and Samothraki
, and to destinations as far as Piraeus and the Dodecanese.
Most visitors pass through Kavala on their way between Thessaloniki or Skopje and Istanbul, or en route to Thasos
or the archaeological site of Philippi
(17 km north). However it is a pleasant city with a relaxed atmosphere and several sights which make staying here at least two nights well worth while.
More details about Kavala's attractions can be seen on Page 5: Activities and sightseeing in Kavala
, and in our Kavala photo gallery
If you are interested in the city's history, there is a brief account on the next page
. It is a broad sweep at a long and rich history. Of necessity, much has been left out, but we have tried to place the story of Kavala in the context of events in the region.